A nice crowd showed up for a Thursday night at the Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland, Ohio, for former Old Crow Medicine Show founding member Willie Watson. Watson is still touring behind his debut solo album Folk Singer, Vol. I, released last year. With just a guitar, banjo, and harmonica for all but one song, this was truly a throwback evening, to see an artist standing alone on a stage and thoroughly entertaining the audience.
Opening his set with “Take This Hammer,” Watson rolled through 17 songs like butter on white bread as the audience respectfully sat back and listened without a notion to shout out any favorite songs. He took us out West with cowboys and Indians on “Mexican Cowboy,” delivered a song for the guys called “James Alley Blues,” and a party song titled “Bring It With You When You Come.”
Staples like “Long John Dean,” "Keep it Clean,” and “Rock Salt and Nails,” were mixed in with classics “Midnight Special” and “My Baby Left Me,” which Watson performed with a slide on his Resonator guitar. he led the audience in a call-and-response work song “Stewball,” a words of wisdom blues song called “Mother Earth,” and a Highway 61 number called “Rollin’ Mama Blues.”
The rest of the set included “Lift Him Up,” “The Cuckoo (Jack of Diamonds),” and the closing bad-ass gospel song “Dry Bones.”
Heather Maloney is opening this portion of the fall tour and offered up some nice highlights ahead of Watson, like “Flutter,” “1855,” and “Dirt and Stardust.” Doing a 40/40 tour over two months, Maloney's vocal range was incredible. She channeled Joni Mitchell on “Woodstock,” playing her tenor guitar and an a capella “No Shortcuts” that included some audience participation.